Spying microwaves?

Cybersecurity and cyberwar are words that haven grown in popularity in the past couple years. Yet do we even know what they mean? After the reading by Singer and Friedman, I can’t say I fully understand all the intricacies of the complicated topics, although I can understand how important they are to our world today. It has grown extremely important over the past years, yet it is not well understood as Singer and Friedman point out. Many people in government are of an older generation that grew up without computers, adding an extra step or difficulty. Young people have been around technology almost their whole life, even if we are not experts we understand it much more than say our grandparents or even parents in most cases. Children are learning to code at school, in the United States and abroad. They are learning more about technology than I ever did growing up. They will be more prepared in 20 or 30 years, but we can’t wait for that. Cyber security and cyberwar are extremely important issues today, only poised to get more and more important. Yet there isn’t much talk about it in the news, some articles and discussion but nowhere near as much as it deserves because the general public doesn’t understand and in part because it’s not as obvious to us as a threat. However, cyber security cannot be on just the government, companies or cyber security companies. Insecure smart devices pose a threat to us all.

Even though I can use my smartphone and laptop, I don’t know about coding, IP addresses, firewalls, etc. I can grasp the concept but it’s not something I can speak on, and I can assume that I am part of a large number of people that do not fully understand that ‘cyber stuff’. Yet that ‘cyber stuff’ is everywhere from our phones to our TVs to our refrigerators, anything with a computer. Everything is computerized these days, becoming smarter and smarter. Even our modern cars have computers, and just like anything else physical that runs on code, they can be hacked if there are holes in the system. In the Vice land episode “The Zero Day Market: Cyberwar” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPXctbdBth0) they explore the world of these unpatched vulnerabilities in codes called zero days. They meet with a security researcher, Charlie Miller, that happens to be a former NSA hacker, that looks for zero days in software. He and his partner found a way to hack into a Chrysler model back in 2015, where they could turn off the car, not just from inside the car, but from miles away. He claims Chrysler did not fix the problem until it became public, a perfect example of public pressure even when the public doesn’t understand all the intricacies.  If you want to read more about this here is a little to an interesting article I found about hacking into a Jeep. (https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway/)  This goes a step further than the reading discussing the theft of BMWs on page 39, where they discuss how car thieves can intercept the electronic key and then connect to the OBD II port to start the car to hacking without even being near the car.

The zero days that these hackers search for are holes that they can choose to give or sell to the companies or government. Cybersecurity is not up to just the government, it is up to all of us. This a perfect demonstration of how individuals are just as important to cybersecurity as governments are. A hacker created a program called the bug bounty program, so that the hackers can ensure that they make money from turning them in rather than having to decide whether to sell them or do the right thing. They are exposing vulnerabilities in systems that companies to governments around the world are using. An interesting debate that was brought up in the episode is the debate surrounding these zero days, as there is a lack of conversation about them in the public. Yet as they point out, technology always trickles down through the government to the police, yet people do not know about them. To understand cybersecurity it needs to be better understood by the public and even the lawmakers making laws regarding it. Cybersecurity is so important as we don’t want zero days or other vulnerabilities falling into the hands of the wrong people, as they can be used so widely on anything physical that runs on code.

In a recent interview about Trump’s claims of Obama wiretapping him, Kellyanne Conaway cited a microwave as a possible way that the Obama administration spied on Trump in Trump Towers. Although it sounds completely absurd, it is not as far off as you might think. It sounds funny, a microwave being used to spy… ridiculous… or not, as home appliances with cameras can be used to spy. However, microwaves do not have cameras, she is probably thinking about maybe refrigerators or dishwashers. Maybe she got her idea from the recent WikiLeaks release of CIA documents revealing the methods used by the CIA to spy ( https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/). Although the CIA won’t confirm whether the docs are real. Kellyanne was surprisingly onto something despite citing microwaves, she was discussing the CIA capabilities that the use on foreign countries. However she was using it as possible ways Trump was spied on in Trump towers, something that is illegal as it is illegal to spy on American citizens. Although we know from our discussion on big data that there are many ways around that. Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 6.20.27 PM.png



2 thoughts on “Spying microwaves?

  1. Maybe she is in the anti-microwave lobby, and was being paid by a lobbyist to spread the story that microwaves are actually at the forefront of cyber espionage. I enjoyed your discussion on the ethics of spying through a microwave, or any home appliance for that matter. I liked how you concluded that even though most of us know how to use a computer and a smartphone, we still do not understand the intricacies of the cyber world and what it can be used for. Although it seems Kelly-Anne is further behind than we are.


    1. Hahaha oh Kelly Anne, never know what she is up to. It seems as though many would be on that same level, as it is extremely difficult concept to grasp. Thanks for the comment Katelyn!


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